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Surviving the witching hour. Strategies to get through the toughest part of the day, written by a mom of 6!

The witching hour.

I wish I could meet whoever coined that phrase because it is solid gold, sister.

At my house, the witching hour is the typical 4-5pm time frame, right before my husband is off work and when I’m trying to get dinner prepped.

At that point in our day my kids are in that restless place of being a little tired, a little hungry, a little bored, and a little aggressive with their siblings.

It’s the hour that I feel the most virtuous about staying calm, present, and patient in. It’s the hour I’m least likely to stay calm, present and patient.

Can you relate? Over the years, I’ve discovered a few things that can really help us ride that last rough wave of the day with more grace and fewer wipeouts.

Get out of the house. I know this isn’t always possible and as I’ve had more and older kids it is less likely to happen for me, but, it was solid my ace in the hole when I had one, two, and three children.

When you know that your worst hour is about to strike, preempt it by switching up what you’re doing.

A few things that worked for me: going for a drive while listening to either a podcast of some music that you and your little one both enjoy, hitting up a local grocery store to grab any last minute dinner items, stopping at a new park to check it out, driving by something your child likes such as trains, construction equipment, etc., and keeping it real here – hitting the Starbucks happy hour frappe line to buy mama some sanity in the form of a sweet treat.

I know it’s hit or miss to take your little one out when she’s having a hard time, but it can help both of you make it through to the other side of the witching hour.

Lower your expectations. Is there anything that could make this time of day easier for you? Consider what you currently have planned, and if it’s appropriate for your kiddo at a rough time of day. I used to find myself wanting to be the most productive around the house in the hour before my husband got home from work, but finally I realized that it wasn’t going to work. The kids were the most needy in that same hour, so me rushing around, picking up and trying to manage tasks while they just wanted my attention was a recipe for disaster!

I decided that I needed to either leave the tidying for after he was home or prioritize doing it earlier in the day. The constant push pull of a needy toddler plus feeling the need to clean house only added to the frustration that was present in the witching hour

Pull out the big guns. For my family, this means sensory activities. My kiddos love a good sensory bin or experience and they can snap that whining around in a hot second!

On really rough days, you can keep it super simple and let your kiddo stand on a stool at the kitchen sink with the sink filled shallowly with water, a few cups and spoons included to explore with. If you’ve got a bit more prep time, consider bins of water beads, dry beans, kinetic sand, fake snow or pasta along with some small toys and see your kiddo dive right in.

Here’s a fun tutorial on how to make Moon Sand and Rainbow Rice for sensory bins. 

Moon Sand- Toddler Sensory Activity

I’ve had the best luck with this if I switch up what bin I get out every day or two to keep it more fresh and exciting. One other sensory activity that was a winner at my house: give each child a pan with edges with a bit of soapy water in the bottom. Have your kiddo grab her hot wheels for a car wash or plastic animals for a bath! Again, it will keep them busy and help get over the hump of tired/hungry/why is 4pm so awful.

Put your oxygen mask on first. My final little tidbit is for you to address your needs throughout the day when you can, so that you have a bit more patience and energy to spare when the inevitable witching hour comes.

Do you have anything you do to fill your own tank? I take a long walk in the mornings, listen to podcasts or audiobooks, and think adult thoughts. It’s amazing what that 6am walk does for my morale around 5pm. Maybe you can take 5 minutes at nap time to goal set or nurture your dreams.

Fill your tank before the witching hour when you can! If it’s been an exceptionally hard day, there is nothing wrong with curling up with your kiddos and a book or a movie to ride it out.

After all, tomorrow is a new day.

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